U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders raised the issue of the murder of a Canadian Sikh separatist leader with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in India earlier this month, according to a report by the Financial Times.
Canada accuses India of involvement in assassination
The report, citing three people familiar with the discussions, said that Biden and several members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which includes the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, expressed concern to Modi about Canadian claims that India was behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader, in British Columbia in June.
The leaders intervened at the G20 summit after Canada urged its allies to raise the case directly with Modi, the newspaper reported. The summit was held in India days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his allegations public in an address to the Canadian parliament on Monday.
Trudeau said that Canada had “credible evidence” that India was involved in the assassination of Nijjar, who was wanted by India for allegedly plotting attacks in Punjab. Trudeau said that Canada had shared its findings with its allies and partners and demanded that India cooperate with the investigation.
India denies allegations and retaliates diplomatically
India has rejected Canada’s allegations and called them “absurd” and “baseless”. India has accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs and supporting Sikh separatists who seek an independent state of Khalistan in Punjab.
India has also retaliated diplomatically by suspending new visas for Canadians and asking Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country. India has also warned of further consequences if Canada does not withdraw its accusations.
Crisis strains Canada-India ties and puts allies in a bind
The crisis has put a further dent in Canada-India ties, which have been strained since 2018 when Trudeau visited India and faced criticism for his perceived soft stance on Sikh extremism. Trudeau’s visit was also marred by controversy when a convicted Sikh extremist was invited to official events.
The situation has also put some Western nations in a tough position as Canada has been a long-standing partner and ally while those countries are also seeking to build strong ties with New Delhi to counter the influence of China in the Asia Pacific region.
Biden and Modi have forged a close relationship since Biden took office in January and have vowed to cooperate on issues such as climate change, trade, security and democracy. The U.S. considers India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy to balance China’s rise.